The “Voyage Seaward” Program is a 3-5 day overnight program in which youth experience nature and build self-confidence through the adventure of sailing a tall ship.
Students are challenged to form a cohesive crew, or team, through learning to sail under the guidance of a professional captain and crew.
During this hands-on program, participants are completely immersed in shipboard-life. They learn teamwork, leadership, effective communication and a variety of academic subjects while directly experiencing San Francisco Bay and coastal waters. Aboard Seaward, students are immediately able to apply the new knowledge and skills in order to operate the ship, navigate the maritime environment, and understand their surroundings. They are able to draw connections between information learned from schooling and lessons learned by doing. As they gradually take on more responsibility for their ship and shipmates, they gain a new sense of empowerment and stewardship that is carried with them to their lives onshore.
The academic curriculum is based on the immediately relevant phenomena of the bay and coastal maritime environment, and will vary somewhat according to conditions and the student group. Our Bay Exploration is expanded and may include additional topics in:
- Physical oceanography including tides, currents, waves, depth and temperature measurements
- Meteorology including global and local wind patterns and fog
- Bay and coastal marine science including local organisms, water chemistry, and bottom sampling
- Navigational exercises including finding position by triangulation, dead reckoning (speed-time-distance), plotting current effects by vectors, and introduction to GPS
- History and traditions of the coast
- Sail training
- Sailors’ arts, maritime literature, and other relevant topics
The challenge of learning to sail a ship and take her on a voyage can be a life-changing experience. Students are given increased responsibility as the days pass and their skills grow. They develop confidence, teamwork and leadership skills, and they have fun! Dependent on weather, wind and tide instead of typical social pressures and electronic entertainment, they develop a sense of stewardship for the ocean environment and often return to shore forever changed.
The first purpose of “Voyage Seaward” is to give young people access to and a meaningful connection with their bay and coastal waters.
Aboard the sail training vessel, students literally live on the bay and directly experience everything it has to offer – its microclimates, its wildlife, its industry, its historical significance. On the 3-day trip they’ll even pass through the famous Golden Gate and sail on the ocean. Students will gain academic knowledge of the subjects they explore, with their inquiries and interests driving the lessons. Perhaps more importantly, they’ll have an enjoyable and enriching direct experience with nature. Such experiences broaden and diversify the population of those who feel a sense of stewardship for the bay. This is good for the bay, but it also provides common ground to help bridge the gap between underserved youth we serve and their better-served counterparts.
The second purpose of “Voyage Seaward” is to offer youth the benefits of an extended, live-aboard sailing program.
On such voyages character is built, interpersonal differences are overcome, bonds are formed, and responsibility is learned. These things are the necessary result of making 60 tons of canvas and steel (a small space now home to 19 people) function. The motto onboard, reflecting our priorities, is “ship, shipmate, self”. It is challenging. For example, it is difficult to get up in the middle of the night to stand anchor watch, but students (and crew) take turns being responsible for the ship’s safety so that their shipmates can sleep. Eventually, the captain may deem students capable of taking anchor watch on their own. Students find themselves capable of more than they thought. Self-confidence grows and they return to shore with a sense of achievement.
The participant outcomes expected are not based on hopes but on experience, the testimony of our collaborators, and on published research on the value of sail training. Our collaborators are passionate about this program because it offers an opportunity for youth to experience something new and exciting while learning skills they need in real life – skills like teamwork, leadership, cooking, caring for community living space, working for a greater good even when one is tired, basic principles of navigation. This is a natural outcome of shipboard existence.
Self-confidence and self-esteem grow tremendously for several main reasons.
- Accomplishments happen daily as students sail the ship from place to place.
- When students return to shore, they have completed something that many of them initially feared. It is a tangible conquering of a fear.
- The high staff-to-student ratio provides individual attention at a crucial time in a student’s life. Social awareness also increases as students integrate with youth of other communities.